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Provide School Meals to Fight Kids’ Hunger

Children who eat regular meals are healthier and less prone to chronic illness and other health issues, which helps them do better in school. Yet rising costs of food can make it hard for families to feed their kids regular nutritious meals –over 81% of public school teachers report that students come to school hungry at least once a week. This policy ensures all students can get two nutritious meals a day at school, keeping kids healthy and helping families make ends meet.

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Frequently Asked Questions
Who does this help?
Offering school meals to more students has been shown to reduce local grocery prices for everyone. This policy also benefits everyone by saving taxpayer dollars on poverty reduction and health programs, as the policy keeps kids healthy and helps them do better in school, preparing them for good-paying jobs.
Is this a high cost for the state?
No. This policy more than pays for itself by reducing the health costs associated with diabetes, obesity, impaired cognitive development, and other harms from food insecurity. Every dollar spent on school meals in the U.S. provides more than $2 in benefits.
How does this policy work?
This policy would enable K-12 schools to provide two free school meals during the school day to any student who requests it, regardless of federal eligibility for free- or reduced-price meals.
Partners
  • Educators
  • Families
  • Anti-hunger advocates
Opposition
  • None noted
Model Policy
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SECTION 1 (TITLE):
This act shall be known as the [STATE] Free School Meals Act
SECTION 2 (PURPOSE):
This policy ensures that all students, regardless of income, receive two free school meals per day during the school year, so they can do better in school.
SECTION 3 (PROVISIONS):

a) FREE SCHOOL MEALS

i) Schools operating the national school lunch program and the school breakfast program shall provide two school meals free of charge during each school day to any pupil who requests a meal without consideration of the pupil’s eligibility for a federally funded free or reduced-price meal, with a maximum of one free meal for each meal service period. The meals provided under this paragraph shall be nutritionally adequate meals that qualify for federal reimbursement.

ii) To the maximum extent possible, a school administrative unit that serves breakfast or lunch and is eligible for the community eligibility provision under the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Public Law 111-296, Section 104(a) or other federal universal meal programs shall maximize participation in those programs including the federal resources available in those programs.

iii) Schools referred to in section (i) above are encouraged to implement Breakfast After the Bell programs.

b) REIMBURSEMENTS

i) The State shall provide funding equal to the difference between the federal reimbursement for a free breakfast and lunch through participation in the federal School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program and the full price of the breakfast and lunch for each student ineligible for a free or reduced-price breakfast and receiving breakfast and lunch.

ii) The amount of per-meal reimbursements provided under this section shall not exceed the difference between the sum of the amounts calculated from meals claimed based on the free combined breakfast and lunch reimbursement rates established by the United States Department of Agriculture and state meal contribution established in Section 1, and the combined federal and state amounts reimbursed for reduced-price and paid meals claimed.

c) MEALS FOR STUDENTS FUND

i) The Meals for Students Fund, referred to in this section as “the fund,” is established as a nonlapsing, dedicated fund within the Department of Education to provide funds for the costs to the State to pay the difference between the federal reimbursement for a free breakfast or lunch and the full price of a breakfast or lunch for students that are ineligible for a free or reduced-price breakfast or lunch.

ii) Moneys in the Fund may be used for the purposes of implementation and administration of this act.

iii) The fund may receive money from any available state, federal or private source.

d) DEPARTMENT shall develop and distribute educational resources for school districts and school meal coordinators that communicate best practices for implementing universal school meals programs, including in schools that qualify to participate in the Community Eligibility Program and shall assist all eligible school districts to apply for Community Eligibility programs.

e) DEPARTMENT shall develop educational resources for school districts and school meal coordinators that communicate best practices for developing and implementing Breakfast After the Bell programs, including federal, state, and private funding opportunities for breakfast after the bell programs.

f) The sum of [DOLLAR AMOUNT] is appropriated from the [GENERAL FUND] to the Fund for the implementation of this section.

g) This section is effective for meals provided on or after [DATE], subject to available funding.

h) DEFINITIONS

i) “Breakfast After the Bell” means a breakfast that is offered to students after the beginning of the school day. Examples of breakfast after the bell models include, but are not limited to:

1) “Grab and go,” where easy-to-eat breakfast foods are available for students to take at the start of the school day or in between morning classes;

2) “Second chance breakfast,” where breakfast foods are available during recess, a nutrition break, or later in the morning, for students who are not hungry first thing in the morning, or who arrive late to school;

3) “Breakfast in the classroom,” where breakfast is served in the classroom, often during homeroom or first period; and

4) “Vending options,” where breakfast foods are stocked in free vending machines made available to students before, during, or after first period.